Children have absolutely no problem being creative in everything, whether it is eating, putting on clothes or coming up with a fantastical world in which to play, invent and conquer.
Growing up, one of my favorite games was to tromp through the woods behind our home on a mountain imagining that I was a great hunter or explorer with a destination or conquest which would take great skill and savvy to reach my goal. Bushes became buffalos or tigers that I fatally stabbed with spears made of sticks. I was armed with all the necessary gear ... pocket knife, canteen, whistle, rope, handkerchiefs, a collapsible little Army shovel and food.
I remember filling the old metal canteen at the kitchen sink and slipping my head and one arm through the strap so it rested on my hip, dropping the freshly sharpened pocketknife into my front pocket, putting the whistle around my neck and loading everything into a pillowcase my mother deemed acceptable for excursions.
Even as I was tying at knot in the top of my “adventurer’s bag,” in my mind I was already in the midst of a great adventure. During summertime, we kids would leave the house in the morning with the admonition to “make sure you’re home before it gets dark.” Off we’d go to a brand new adventure that knew no limits, one it never occurred to us we wouldn’t win, regardless o the challenge.
Like Joshua and Caleb returning from the Promised Land in Numbers 14:9, my little brother and I would head out to worlds unknown, considering any obstacle “bread to us. We looked forward to the need to rise to the occasion, believing that we’d be quick-thinking, use any resources we’d brought as well as what we’d find along the way. Sometimes we’d happen across arrowheads, walking sticks and myriad other treasures, all added to the arsenal.
God wants us to attack life with the same insatiable hunger for adventure and to similarly prepare it with gear that will allow us to succeed. In Romans 8:37 it says, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” There’s a quote that says “Our words become our children’s inner voice”. If we find we’re not excited for the life adventure set before us, and battling fear or doubt, it begs the question “Where did you get your inner voice?”
As we choose to belong to Christ, God becomes our Heavenly Father and He wants to re-create the inner voice that moves us, so we’re no longer victimsm but more than conquerors, in all things. He wants us to be prepared to go after the destiny He has planned for us since before the beginning of time. Those preparations are similar to the list of gear that, as a child, I felt was essential to take on the giants and the land I’d go occupy for the “greater good of mankind.” As a kid I’d practice using my pocketknife — as children of God we are given a powerful sword of the Spirit, the Word. There were a few times I cut myself with that pocketknife or forgot all the things I could use it for to make my journey easier ... as a Christian, the same has happened with the Word of God. Many times I’ve said to myself, “Oh yeah! That’s right! I don’t have to put up with this, I know who I belong to and what my inheritance is.”
My old canteen, covered in rugged green fabric with a strong mesh strap didn’t carry itself to the kitchen sink and fill itself; that was my responsibility. Before filling it with fresh water, I would take the lid off and sniff to make sure it was clean and to dump out any old water. There were a few times when a funky smell wafted up when I opened it. I was thankful for taking the time to check it before filling it up with fresh water to unwittingly drink something foul later. When you’re really thirsty, you’ll drink just about anything and hope for the best.
Times of adversity or pain in our lives constitute the spiritual equivalent of profound thirst. Christian writer C.S. Lewis says “Experience is a cruel teacher, but oh how you learn.”
Ephesians 5:26 says that “He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,”… Have we had seasons of life where we were content to drink stagnant spiritual water because we were unwilling to dump out dead religiosity, walk to the well, and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and refill us with fresh life-giving truth and revelation? It takes time, energy and intentionality to pursue Christ and all He offers us.
As children, we were taught that, if we were ever in trouble, to stay where we were and blow that whistle in loud bursts of three, not stopping until help arrived. Blowing that whistle is the equivalent of calling out to God, and also being transparent to those around us. We should ask and keep asking for help until it arrives. God says, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” Sometimes He uses people around us to be His answer to our need.
The rope was good if I needed to tie things together or when we wanted to act like daring mountain climbers. One person would have a rope tied around their middle and wrap the rope around a tree to anchor themselves and safely lift the other from a bottomless chasm (about 5 feet or less, usually). Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor, if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
We need each other in times of trouble. God never intended us be the Lone Ranger on this life journey.
Handkerchiefs can be used to bind up wounds. Sometimes it seemed like a great idea to create a big fort by pulling lots of dried brush and form kind of a “bush igloo.” All that bush pulling can be a little rough on bare hands, so I’d wrap my hands with the kerchiefs to keep working. Why I didn’t start out with my hands wrapped or thought to include gloves in my gear escapes me still. Psalm 147:3 says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” because even warriors can be wounded in battle.
The shovel represents digging deep for the treasures. Matthew 44 is “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. the man who went to consider a field and when the pearl of great price was found there, he went and sold all he had so he could acquire the property.”
When we start unearth the treasures that God has for us, are we willing to dig deep for them? What are we willing to exchange for a life that is filled to overflowing with the blessings and treasures of God? Is it worth getting rid of things that the world values, but have no true significance? Things that only diminish the quality of life God longs to give us? There’s nothing like a meal of dusty peanut butter and jelly sandwich washed down with warm canteen water while sitting on the side of a mountain after a hard day adventuring and building forts with family and friends, the thought of not being victorious never occurring to us. I believe that’s how God wants us to live this life He has given us. We need to remember that no matter what happens, all we need to be fully equipped for any battle. If it’s available through Christ, he will make sure we have all we’ll need. He’ll also show us the treasures he has for us when we want to go deeper, but for those, we need to dig.
The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center wth her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 609-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.